Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Andy Coulson will go - and soon

Following yesterday's revelations about the Murdoch owned papers apparently having paid £1m to silence victims of phone-tapping (the Guardian splashes on it today) the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson is now under extreme pressure. He used to be editor of the NOTW but resigned in 2007 over the royal phone-tapping scandal involving Clive Goodman and is now head of communications for the Conservative Party.

I read Flat Earth News last year, a book by journalist Nick Davies that exposes the methods used by Fleet Street including in Chapter 7 "The Dark Arts" a detailed description of how, according to Mr Davies newspapers regularly use Private Investigators to source information for stories and that the PI's sometimes use unethical methods to get it. Phone-tapping is mentioned as one of these methods amongst many others and yesterday's revelations don't come as a huge surprise to me.

The focus now seems to be on Mr Coulson's position within the Conservative Party. He was editor of the NOTW at the time when some of the alleged actions took place and as Andrew Neil said on Newsnight last night "it beggars belief" that he was not aware of what was going on. It seems to me that must be right. Either he knew what was happening, or he had lots of out of control journalists working for him who pulled the wool over his eyes. I can't imagine that someone who could be duped so easily could run communications for a large political party.

If Mr Cameron is smart (and we all know he is) he will be lining up a potential replacement as I write. He may claim to be "relaxed" about the situation but not so relaxed as to not have a Plan B I am sure. Cameron will not want the taint of this story to start damaging the Conservative Party; that is what will start to happen if he doesn't do something quickly. We know David Cameron can be ruthless when it comes to the crunch (a putative Prime Minister has to be sometimes) and this situation feels very crunchy indeed.

I expect Mr Coulson to be out by the weekend.

UPDATE 1: I just wanted to make clear that the Guardian journalist with the splash on this today is also Nick Davies the author of Flat Earth News mentioned elsewhere in my post.

UPDATE 2: My blog post here has very kindly been included and linked to by The Guardian in its coverage of blog reaction to the story.


Unknown said...

If he didn't know, he's incompetent, if he did, then that's a scandal. Either way, I think his position is untenable.

Voter said...

This appears to be the Tory equivalent of Mr McBride and he should go.

I wondered, however, whether Mr Cameron employed him precisely because he wanted someone to get results by any means necessary.

Or is that too cynical?

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

But was his resignation from the editorship of the NoTW not in response to "knowing or ought to have known" about 'phone tapping?

As Guido Fawkes points out, there is a qualitative distinction with the McBride scandal (prior job versus dirty tricks operation from current Downing St. job).

Absent a criminal charge - or a well-offensive civil suit - surely Coulson has not forefeited his right to work in his chosen "profession"?

Voter said...

He does not have to work for the Conservatives. The pressure would be on Mr Cameron to remove him. Is it good judgement to hire someone who resigned in disgrace?

I guess the Tory role has to be filled but could Mr Cameron not find someone else?

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

The de facto Prime Minister has resigned in disgrace at least twice so why are you fussed about a Tory party apparatchik?

Anonymous said...

@ Cardinal Richelieu

Because Cameron is supposedly our Prime Minister in waiting, not just the leader of an opposition which should never receive the spotlight, and also because the newly branded Tories apparently never do anything wrong ever- the sole reason for us to vote for them next year.